TOPEKA (KSNT) – This American Education Week, one local district is celebrating a unique full circle moment.

27 News met up with two educators at Williams Science and Fine Arts Magnet School who have a special connection to the USD 501 school district.

For Ms. Gunby and Mr. Taylor, heading into work has a slight sense of deja vu. The pair are former 501 students! They say being from the community helps them relate to students in a really special way.

“I know how a lot of these kids home life isn’t always easy,” Jalen Taylor said. “Being that change and that African American role model for a lot of people who look like both of us, it means a lot to the community and a lot to the kids.” 

“I have something in common with the kids here,” Ajanea Gunby said. “It’s not like I’m from another district. I was born and raised through this district, so I know exactly what they’re going through even though it may look a little different now. I’ve been there before, so I can relate with them.” 

Both started their teaching journeys as substitutes in USD 501. They say it means quite a lot educating in the district where they grew up, especially for Mr. Taylor. He is a proud Williams Magnet graduate.

“It’s very different, seeing kinda what kids are doing now as a teacher,” Taylor said. “It’s like ‘Oh man, this is what we did to our teachers? What?’ It’s just a good feeling, knowing I was in the exact same pods, same seats as the kids.”

Making a difference in their hometown community, especially amid a national teacher shortage, makes the sense of fulfillment that comes with teaching younger students even sweeter.

“I always tell my kids they are the future,” Gunby said. “Whether or not they understand what I mean completely, they’re the future in this community. What our community will look like in the next 10 years or five years depends on what is being instilled in the kids, and a big part of that is starting with your education.” 

These two aren’t the only educators showcasing homegrown talent. Williams Magnet has two additional team members from the transition to teaching staff making a difference in their alma mater district.